2
Posted April 12, 2007 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

The Maccabees Colour It In

macca1.jpg

The Maccabees are the latest in a string of British “art-rock” bands who are making it big on youthful energy, bodacious riffs, and simplistically engaging melodies. While similar British contemporaries such as The View and Bloc Party write songs with a more universally amiable approach, The Maccabees sound distinctively and entirely British. They certainly are aware of it as well. “I think there is a fine line between ‘British and ‘laddish’,” lead singer Orlando Weeks states proudly, “but I do think there’s something quintessentially English about our music.” And just as well, what’s a successful British band without a righteous amount of confidence? Well, The Maccabees have that as well, going as far to comparing their songwriting to Ray Davies. Fairly enough, they do write about British lifestyle much like The Kinks did, though the qualitative comparison is a far reach from the truth. Still, The Maccabees are one of the more impressive bands coming out of the England these days with their overabundant style that the magazines all love to coin “art-rock”. You may find that I rarely feature bands of that nature on this site, mainly because most of the rubbish sounds too similar without an ounce of artistic creativity. Even so, I’m not reluctant to share a few memorable songs and The Maccabees are the most recent to fit that loose qualification of significant creative output. Mostly hailing from Brighton, the members of The Maccabees came together in October of 2003. Bored of just jamming in his bedroom with his brother, Hugo White decided to initiate his longtime aspirations of joining a band. Though Felix was already in a band and not interested in Hugo’s project, he gave Hugo a nice jump start when he introduced him to Orlando Weeks, a young and brash vocalist whose stage presence is noticeable within the first seconds of any performance. The two met and hit it off immediately, comparing musical ideas on a whim. With the two now looking for a rhythm section, Weeks invited his friend and drummer Robert Dylan Thomas to join up. I suppose that a first and middle name of “Robert Dylan” must be representative of a familial passion for music. The band also found a bassist, though in the oddest of ways. Hugo White enlisted the help of Rupert Jarvis, a bassist whose father was coincidentally dating White’s mother at the time. After playing a slew of minor venues, Felix White found himself very impressed with his younger brother’s band. With his own band, Jack’s Basement, in the midst of a breakup, he began to beg his brother, Weeks, Jarvis, and Thomas to let him in. Though Hugo was hesitant at the time, he reluctantly let his brother in with the band’s future in mind. It eventually proved to be the right move, as the band works quite dynamically with one another. The name “The Maccabees” was brought on when bassist Rupert Jarvis randomly flipped open the Bible and found the name “Maccabee” on a page. Though none of the members are religious, it struck him for whatever reason. Upon hearing Jarvis’ idea, the rest of the band agreed that is sounded like an appropriate band name. Thus, with their five set members and a definitive name, The Maccabees were born. Their first single, “X-Ray”, was released in late 2005 and saw success on some minor radio stations. Their first noticeable hit came in the form of their second single, “Latchmere”, about six months later. Embracing the Internet, the band found new fans by utilizing popular technological services such as XFM and YouTube, with the music video (directed by Hugh Frost and Samuel Bebbington) becoming a minor hit on Internet video sites. Later that year, NME went as far to call The Maccabees “the best new band in Britain”, though I’m almost positive that NME uses that phrase about fifty times per year. Though a setback occurred when drummer Robert Dylan Thomas broke his arm late last year, the band carried on and replaced him with session drummer Elliott Andrews. After four respectable singles, the band plans to release their debut album, Colour It In, on May 14th.

macca2.jpg

While listening to The Maccabees, I’m almost positive that most of you will immediately be reminded of Maxïmo Park, The View, The Rakes, or even in some instances, Bloc Party. We all know what these bands sound like by now and even though there are thousands like them, there are only a handful who genuinely reach a point of admirable creative success. The question for The Maccabees is whether their debut album, Colour It In, will rank up there with some of the modern greats, included in a genre that simply refuses to fade. In fact, when looking back on the 2000s, it is not difficult to think that bands like The Maccabees will be considered the trademark of the musical era. Witty one-liners, quick guitar riffs, an aggressive vocal delivery that lacks an indeterminable swagger… it’s all here. Bloc Party and The Strokes are household names by now and even if they don’t deserve it, they will most likely be remembered for triggering such a movement several years from now. Colour It In is hardly anything new or revolutionary, but it’s a fun listen with the majority of the songs holding a sense of vigorous excitement. Like most bands of a similar nature, The Maccabees tend to shine on their singles. That said, if you don’t like any of the songs below (all singles), I doubt you’ll enjoy much of anything else on the album. The style throughout each song is rather consistent, with the last song on the album, the acoustic “Toothpaste Kisses”, being the only break from the continuous sense of fury and excitement, some of which seems too forced in several places. Sure, it gets tiring after awhile of listening to the same approach but I can never expect too much out of a debut from a band of this element. That being said, if we’re sticking to this “element”, Colour It In is a nice effort. Optimistically, Colour It In contains all four of the band’s singles (and best songs) – “X-Ray”, “Latchmere”, “First Love”, and “About Your Dress”, the last which may see some further success overseas after reaching #33 in the UK charts. Sure, The Maccabees aren’t the most innovative band to come out of Britain lately but there is no doubt in my mind that they will rank up there with newly prominent names like The View, Little Man Tate, or Good Shoes. There are five or six songs on Colour It In that are catchier than most of the tracks in The Maccabees’ relative scene, which is just flowing with imitations at this point. With a stroke of fortune, at least one track on the album should find universal commercial success. My bet is on “About Your Dress”. Even if the lyrics are somewhat laughable and it sounds like a less mature version of Maxïmo Park, the typical audience will eat it up. My personal favorite track on Colour It In is “First Love”, one of the only tracks on the album that takes a riskier approach in utilizing a structure that slowly builds up the song from a slower paced set of satirical romanticism to a furiously catchy chorus where Weeks bursts out, “Let’s get married! And tick the boxes!” These rushes of of excitement make the album a notable release, one that should have fans of the genre jumping for joy. In addition to the four singles on the album, “Precious Time” and “Mary” are also both worthwhile (for those who don’t mind skipping around). Though the filler songs are easy to identify almost immediately, there are moments on Colour It In that are successfully expressive of a band whose potential is about to burst with youthful vigor. Go ahead and give The Maccabees a listen. They are bound to reach your ears eventually.

——————————————————————————————

The Maccabees – About Your Dress

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/macca-abo.mp3]

——————————————————————————————

The Maccabees – First Love

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/macca-fir.mp3]

——————————————————————————————

The Maccabees – Latchmere

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/macca-lat.mp3]

——————————————————————————————

Official Web Site

BUY


Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].